LatinaLista — In the state of Oklahoma, 8.2 percent of the population is Latino according to 2009 Census findings. Since 2000, Oklahoma County, the seat of the state’s capitol, Oklahoma City, saw a 67 percent increase since 2000 in the number of Latinos who call Oklahoma City home.
In fact according to news reports, if it were not for the growth of Latinos in the state, the future of Oklahoma would be fragile at best.
For many Oklahoma counties, Hispanic population growth helped mitigate what otherwise would have been a decade of decreasing population.
However, it’s not like Latinos have only arrived. They have been there for over a hundred years contributing to the state with a rich culture and entrepreneurial spirit that complements the Will Rogers-cowboy culture that Sooners hold dear.
Nonetheless, Oklahoma state legislators have targeted their Latino undocumented population with a vengeance by passing punitive anti-immigration laws. The award-winning film Panic Nation chronicled the evolution of these laws in the Sooner State.
With the strong anti-immigrant feeling and the behavior of the Republican Party — the majority party in the state — towards undocumented immigrants, it’s no wonder that a people heralded for their hospitality and friendliness would think it’s OK to do what some residents of an Oklahoma City neighborhood are asking their local school district to do — tear down a school instead of renovating it because the majority of students are Latino.
Roosevelt Middle School is located in southwest Oklahoma City. Southwest Oklahoma City has long been home to the city’s many Latino residents. I should know. It was where my grandmother and her family settled after fleeing the Mexican Revolution in the early 20th century.
It’s not uncommon to hear Spanish music, see bilingual store signs or lose count of the many Mexican restaurants that are now on every corner of every city block. Roosevelt sits amid this environment. It’s natural that it, and every other public school in southwest Oklahoma City, would have a large Latino student population.
Like most buildings in southwest Oklahoma City, Roosevelt Middle School is long overdue for a facelift. Built in 1960, the school is due to be renovated as part of the city’s capital improvement program known as Metropolitan Area Projects or MAPS.
Plans for the school are to be discussed in a meeting tomorrow night. Yet, a neighborhood group that is within the boundaries for Roosevelt are planning to attend that meeting to ask officials not to renovate or update Roosevelt, but tear it down.
They’ve said they feel the school has brought a “bad element” to their neighborhood. In other words, they feel their neighborhood is going down hill because of the Latino students at Roosevelt.
The behavior of the students is not known. Are they truant and hanging out in the neighborhoods when they should be in school? Are they causing criminal mischief?
Even if they were, and every school throughout history has had a portion of their student population commit these kinds of acts, it’s still no reason to ask that the school be torn down and basically rid the neighborhood of Latinos.
If their behavior was such a factor, one would think that representatives from the neighborhood group would go to the school district and try to work something out where the students were more closely monitored so any kind of unacceptable behavior would be eliminated.
Or the neighborhood group could work with creating after school opportunities for these kids so they could stay out of trouble — if they’re getting into trouble.
But if the only trouble they’re causing is “being Latino” then this neighborhood group has crossed the line in human decency and will be sending the worst message a child of any age could receive — you’re not wanted.
No child, anywhere, should be subjected to that cruelty.